Master Post - Part 1
There was no day or night.
There was only pain and when it stopped it meant that something worse was coming. In the cold darkness, Sam lay on his side curled into himself, desperately willing the nightmare to break.
They’d killed Dean.
At first, he’d tried to stop it, but he’d soon grown numb of witnessing his brother’s death again and again.
It was different than it had been at the Mystery Spot. That had been real and this...he didn’t know. He didn’t think it was, most of the time, but he wasn’t sure. As he sat huddled, watching without really seeing, he only knew there was no end.
He could still feel Dean’s bones breaking beneath his punches. Dean hadn’t fought back, hadn’t even tried.
Sam had never fought that hard in his life, clawing and scraping inside his own body to stop the swinging of his own fists. Lucifer had laughed then and he still laughed now, the sickly jovial sound echoing through the barren cavern.
When Sam was let a rare chance to dream he’d used to see his brother. He clung to the Impala and the road, the things he’d thought he’d never wanted. He’d held on as long as he could, but the memories themselves soon melted away, growing more distant and reshaping into ugly things.
Soon, all he could see was the way he’d left Dean – on the ground beaten and bloody. Alone. All because Sam had let a demon talk him into releasing the devil.
Dean had every right to hate him.
Sam hadn’t even been surprised when Dean had turned on him. At first, it had been words that cut deeper than any knife. Dean had finally admitted the truth of what Sam was.
It wasn’t long before words became punches and Sam hadn’t been able to make himself fight back. He just took the hits, took it all, like Dean had.
But fights turned to torture, to evisceration and burning, which was the only reprieve from the icy chill that encased him. It wasn’t that he didn’t deserve it, he did, but something still drove him to fight.
“Wakey, wakey, Sammy.”
Dean’s voice, but not Dean.
In the beginning, it had been easy to tell the difference. The searing cold of Lucifer’s presence had given it away, but it was becoming harder to tell. Everything was so cold.
Rough hands held him down. He smelled leather, motor oil and whiskey. He smelled Dean, his brother pressing down on top of him, pinning him. Cold steel pressed against his throat hard enough to draw hot blood to the surface. The blood traced down his neck before freezing into the ice beneath him.
Sam wanted the blade to cut, to slice him open and let him bleed out. He wanted it to end, but it wouldn’t. The knife would just tear him apart, bit by bit, before it would start all over again. Just like Alastair had taught Dean.
The blade ran deeper and Sam kneed Dean in the gut, kicking him off. Sam scrambled for the knife before rolling to his feet. When he spun around, Dean was gone.
“Haven’t you tired of these games?”
Michael’s voice boomed loud enough to abrade his eardrums and echo through the darkened cavern. The angel remained in the distance, formless light too blinding to look at.
Michael didn’t take form like Lucifer and hadn’t moved for longer than Sam could remember. He wasn’t sure if the angel had ever moved at all.
“Are you kidding me?” Lucifer asked. “Last time I didn’t get a toy. It’s good for you, too, isn’t Sammy?”
Lucifer’s form flowed from Dean back into the vessel Lucifer had worn on earth. Sam knew it was only an illusion, all of this. Or he thought he knew. He wasn’t actually sure of anything anymore.
“But, of course, it’s your fault, I’m back down here,” Lucifer added.
Malice twinkled in his eyes as the devil leaned over where Sam rocked on the jagged ground, oblivious to the frozen stones scraping his skin raw. With a touch, Sam felt only fire.
A scream was torn from him at the searing pain and unbearable heat. The smell of his own hair burning and blackened flesh peeling from bones accosted his nostrils.
It wasn’t like burning alive. At least there was an end to that.
Here, the fire could burn forever. There was no numbness that followed nerve endings sizzling away. The pain only grew as the fire moved deeper, consuming more of his soul until the agony was everything.
Then it was gone as quickly as it had come. Sam’s entire body shook as he laid flat on his bare back, staring up into the ether.
He could feel the fury flowing from Lucifer, charging the air like a lightening storm crackling in the black of night. The devil stood over him, but his attention was fixed on Michael.
“Stop meddling,” Lucifer said. “It’s my vessel. I can do whatever I want with it.”
“You’re a child.”
“You always did think you knew best. Always above me.”
“Clearly I was right,” Michael said. “Why do you waste your time with it?”
“Waste my time?” Lucifer chuckled darkly. “I spent eons trapped down here. Alone. With nothing. And you couldn’t bother to lift a finger, mindlessly following our father’s orders while my light withered.”
“You made your choice.”
“So have you,” Lucifer said. “And now you’re trapped here, too. In my domain.”
“Your domain is a barren prison locked in the furthest reaches of God’s kingdom to keep the evil inside of you from contaminating the rest of existence.”
Sam nodded to himself, Dean’s words running through his head. Contaminated. Evil. Locked away. This was exactly where Sam belonged.
“You’re not above me anymore, big brother. You never were. You just never bothered to listen enough to understand me.” Lucifer circled Sam as he spoke. “Sammy here understands, don’t you?” The devil crouched down beside him. “After all, your brother betrayed you, too.”
“No.” Sam sat, pulling his knees to his chest. “He never would.”
“How can you still deny it?” Lucifer asked. “You’re the same, you and me. All those times your brother turned his back on what you needed. And then he locked you away.”
Sam tucked his head, letting his bangs fall forward to cover his face, as if it could block out the devil. himself Lucifer’s words didn’t fit his memories, not all of them, but each time he spoke, another crack of doubt was forced open.
Lucifer was right about one thing - Dean wasn’t here.
Dean didn’t need maps or landmarks to find his way. He didn’t know if it was the rings’ energy guiding him or if he’d just gotten close enough to feel Sam’s soul, but something led him deeper into the darkness.
There were no more echoes. The tortured souls frozen in the ice below were gone. The ice itself had given away to formlessness. Not even the cold, blue light. There was only blackness so deep he’d lost all bearings aside from what he could feel tugging his soul.
All that remained was frigid emptiness and a fear that crept up inside him, winding so tightly he wanted to scream. There was no one to hear. There was nothing at all. Like the years he’d spent hanging from the meat hooks. Only worse.
His hand reached out into the abyss that surrounded him and brushed against an icy wall of energy that both drew him closer and urged him away. He sucked in a shallow breath as he set his palm flat against the fortress.
His teeth chattered as he recited the archaic chant he’d carefully devoted to memory. He didn't know if Lucifer would spring free or if nothing would happen at all, but he was past the point of being able to fear the outcome, too desperate to just be out of the darkness.
When he pushed forward, it was into light so bright it brought him to his knees. He raised his arm to cover his eyes. In the flood of brightness, he didn’t see his brother, but he was wrenched from his shock by the sound of Sam screaming.
Dean called out before he could even see, stumbling blindly to his feet, towards his brother, only to have a force knock him back. The energy pinned him to the wall so hard it felt as if he’d be crushed. It left him paralyzed, unable to shut out sounds so piercing they would’ve shattered his eardrums if he’d brought them along.
The energy shifted and the light dimmed until Adam came into focus. Dean blinked as he stared at the brother he’d never known, who’d never had a chance.
“If this is one of your tricks...” Adam warned.
Adam wasn’t looking at Dean. He was looking over his shoulder to Lucifer. The devil’s brow furrowed as he stepped closer to Dean. He stood shoulder to shoulder with Adam and tilted his head.
“I told you,” Lucifer said. “I’m not doing this.”
Adam leaned in, inspecting Dean with scrutiny. The cold distance in the eyes said loud and clear that it wasn’t Adam he was looking at. It was Michael.
“He can’t be here,” Michael said.
Dean glared at the angel’s dismissive tone. “Don’t you ever get tired of being wrong?”
“That’s what I keep asking him,” Lucifer said as he poked at Dean’s shoulder.
Michael turned his fiery eyes on Lucifer. “Can you do nothing right?”
If Lucifer protested, Dean didn’t hear it. His attention was focused on Michael as the angel’s hand pressed against his chest. Dean tried to pull away, but couldn’t as the fist forced its way inside of him. The invasive energy reached deep, searching through every corner of his soul.
Dean cried out against the familiar intrusion. Alastair had done the same, taking everything he wanted to twist and bend.
Nothing felt different when Michael pulled out, but Dean dropped to the icy floor, gasping. He stayed on all fours, looking up into Adam’s unfeeling eyes.
Lucifer and Michael were arguing again, but Dean ignored the dispute. Their family’s problems were what had gotten him and his brother here to begin with.
“Why’re you still wearing him?” Dean huffed.
“I told you,” Michael said. “Adam’s not here anymore.”
Dean rolled around the words, trying to make sense of them. It was impossible to think, to do anything, with Sam burning nearly in reach. All he wanted was to go to him, but in Hell, he couldn’t put out a fire he hadn’t started. He had to go through the angels. He also had to figure out how many brothers he was hauling out of here.
“Then where is he?” Dean asked. “You got him on fire somewhere, too?”
“Of course not. He’s in Heaven, just as I promised. Just as you would’ve been if you’d had faith and had fulfilled your duty.”
Dean stood up, trying to block out Sam’s gut wrenching screams as he focused in on Michael. “You son of a bitch. You told me you wouldn’t leave me a drooling mess and you killed Adam?”
“He was brought back only to serve and he was given what he desired, released as reward for his service. And you...I should burn your soul to a cinder.”
“You don't got the juice. Not here,” Dean said with a nod towards Sam. “He wouldn't still be here if you could.”
"Maybe not." Michael moved forward, somehow looming over Dean even in Adam’s form. “But God has clearly sent you here to suffer.”
“Typical,” Lucifer said. “If it’s me I’m just playing with my vessel, but you do the same and it’s God’s will?”
“All of our father’s plans. Everything was destroyed because of this monkey.”
“You’re the one that was trying to destroy the world,” Dean said. “You two couldn’t play nice so you just had to set the whole damn sandbox on fire.”
Michael tossed him back without so much as moving his hand. Dean slid over the icy ground, skidding to a stop over rough rocks protruding from the dark ice. He scrambled to get up, but Michael shoved him back down.
“You and your brother are nothing, but hairless apes created to serve those above you. It's past time you learned your place.”
A hard grip clamped onto his head. The bruising fingers shot a blinding shock of pain that radiated through Dean’s soul. His back arched, legs jerking and hands clawing at the rocks until the agony swallowed all his senses.
He had no concept of how much time had passed before he was again able to focus on the words of the angels. The voices came from nowhere and everywhere as they hovered over him.
“More pointless games."
“You can play high and mighty all you want,” Lucifer replied. “But you said it yourself, they deserve to suffer. I want to play with Sammy, our pets want to play with each other and you want everyone miserable. My way, everyone wins.”
Michael gave a dismissive wave and turned his back. “Do what you will with them. I won’t be lowered to it. It changes nothing.”
The angel moved away, his form dissipating back into light. Beside Dean, the devil smiled.
Lucifer motioned towards Sam. “You want your brother? He’s all yours.”
Dean stared up at the angel with distrust. He knew it was a trick, but it didn’t matter. He rolled to his feet and ran to his brother. The fire was out, but Sam remained huddled naked on the floor, trying to shut it all out. Dean knew. He’d been there.
He dropped to his knees beside Sam, clutching him tightly to his chest. Dean just wanted to cover him up and carry him away from here. He murmured into Sam’s ear, lies that everything would be okay and apologies that would never take any of this back.
His brother’s body remained rigid in his arms. Dean leaned back far enough to see him and got a solid punch to the jaw. He rocked back on his heals, guarding against Sam’s swinging fists.
“Sammy, hey, come on, man, it’s me.”
Sam’s eyes were wild, scanning the darkness before looking in Dean’s direction. Sam didn’t actually meet his eyes, staring down, body crouched and muscles coiled.
Sam nodded to himself. “Yeah...I know who you are.”
“Awesome. Now how about we get out of here?”
Sam laughed. The sound was pained and bitter, his smile manic. “Just how many times do you think I’m gonna fall for that one?”
Sam threw himself forward. Dean dodged back, only to hit the rough stone of a wall that hadn’t been there a moment earlier. The void around them shifted.
Nothingness had become stadium walls that confined them together. It wasn’t like a football field, but something out of some gladiator movie. His bare feet sunk down into the soft dirt that was suddenly beneath them.
At the top of the wall, Lucifer perched above them in a plush spectator’s seat. Dean half expected to see him being fanned with palm fronds by some scantily clad women. Instead, there was only the bright light of Michael backing him like a halo.
Alastair had changed things, but never like this. He’d never made them real. He’d only changed what reality meant. With this, there was no way Sam could know which way was up.
Dean turned away from the angels. He warily scanned the new setting, waiting for a tiger or some freakish monster to be thrown into the pit with them. When he turned, he only saw Sam.
His brother’s solid, muscular frame was tensed, ready for a fight. Dean looked over his shoulder to see what was behind him. There was only the wall. It wasn’t until he looked back that he realized it was him that Sam’s determined eyes were set on and, a moment later, he saw the dagger gripped in Sam’s fist.
Dean shook his head. “Oh, come on. Sammy, you don’t wanna do this.”
Dean reached out for his brother, jumping back as Sam swiped the knife. It sliced into Dean’s side, cutting over his ribs.
“You stay away from me!” Sam shouted.
“Yeah, okay. Sure.” Dean didn’t step back, but didn’t move forward either. He kept his tone calm as he looked at his seething brother. “We can just talk then.”
“I’m through listening to you. You left me here.”
Dean clenched his jaw. “I know. I screwed up, but I got here as fast as I could and now we can go. You just gotta say yes. Just let me...”
“I am through saying yes,” Sam spat. “And I’ve had enough of your lies.”
“Even if I’m lying, what do you got to lose?”
Sam’s eyes said it all. He had everything lose. Dean remembered that game. Alastair had played it, too. Give hope and then make the punishment for reaching for it so bad that you didn’t even want it anymore.
Sam charged. Dean side-stepped him, dodging back as Sam took another swing. Dean ducked and swept out his leg, knocking Sam onto his back. He climbed on top, pinning him down and trying to twist the knife free from his hand.
“I didn’t come all this way just to kick your ass. Just listen...damn it!”
A knee drove hard up into his gut. Sam pushed him off and Dean rolled to his feet, holding his hands out in surrender. A chill ran through him as he again met Sam’s eyes where fear had been replaced with certainty.
Sam came back at him, a powerhouse of energy, throwing one fist after another that Dean only barely managed to deflect. He wasn’t used to staying on the defensive this long. Dean usually took offensive, but he’d come here to save Sam, not to beat him down. He also hadn’t come this far to walk away empty handed.
Dean shot out his fist when Sam cornered him, just enough to stun his brother. He threw him back into the wall, but before he could move on him, Sam threw another hit.
He quickly followed with a sharp kick and another punch that left Dean face down in the dirt. Sam flipped him over and straddled him. The cold sweat of his skin was slick against Dean’s heaving abdomen.
Sam’s fist started coming and Dean let it. His nose cracked, springing tears to his eyes. He blinked them away. When his vision cleared, Sam was holding the dagger over his chest.
Bobby stared into Dean’s blank eyes. With the help of the ropes, the kid sat up straight as if he was conscious, but was still enough that he looked like he was sleeping.
Bobby’s gut was twisted in knots, nausea licking the back of his throat. He took another drink, but there wasn’t enough whiskey in the world to drown the pit inside him. He wasn’t sure how many bottles he’d been through or why he was still standing here.
Dean’s soul was back in Hell and the best Bobby had managed was to send a two-timing crossroads demon to keep watch over him. It wasn’t as if he didn’t already know how this ended.
He’d promised Dean twenty-four hours before he tried to summon his soul back. Bobby wasn’t in his right mind enough to do the conversion math to hell time, but he had no doubt that Dean had considered every second. Mostly, he guessed that Dean had figured in that time he would’ve gone past the point of no return.
Dean wasn’t coming back with or without Sam. Bobby had known that from the start, not that he’d been truly able to admit it, even to himself.
The urgent voice cut through the silence. The bottle slipped from Bobby’s fingers. He jumped from the edge of the desk where he leaned, turning to see Castiel standing beside him.
“Balls! You can’t go sneaking up on a man like that. Damn near gave me a heart attack.”
“Where’s Dean?” Castiel asked again.
Bobby repositioned his cap, his features grim as he settled back against the desk. He crossed his arms over his chest and stared back at Dean’s vacant body. If he looked at the angel, he was damn likely to throttle him.
“Something tells me you already know,” Bobby said.
Castiel tilted his head as he stepped forward to walk a circle around Dean. He leaned in, examining him closely before looking back at Bobby. “Why would Dean return to Hell?”
“You really gotta ask? Boy needs his brother.”
“Sam’s soul cannot be recovered,” Castiel said. “Why would you let him do this?”
“We talking about the same Winchester? It ain’t a matter of what Dean can do. It’s what he needed to do.”
“He won’t succeed.”
“Preaching to the choir.” Bobby pushed off the desk, his steps heavy as he walked towards the angel. “And speaking of angels on high, if you don’t like it, you damn well should’ve answered when he called. Even I heard that boy hiding in the bathroom, begging you just to listen to him.”
“I’m fighting a war in Heaven. I came as quickly as I could.”
“You ain’t the only one fighting this damn war. You wanna help Dean? You better have a way of getting his brother a new body and pray to that god of yours that Dean can pull this off.”
Sam stopped just short of driving the blade into Dean’s chest. It was just like so many times before, but everything was different. It wasn’t just the setting or the fact that he could see Lucifer at the top of the stands.
The hips beneath his were warm. Dean’s blood was hot on his cold hands. His breath was visible in the icy air.
He knew it was a trick. The details shouldn’t matter, but Sam couldn’t pull his gaze away from the earnestness in Dean’s eyes. Dean didn’t fight. He only stared up at him, blood seeping from cuts on his battered face.
“I never left you,” Dean rasped. “I never will.”
Confusion ran over Sam’s pinched features. He watched Dean, so much like his brother, turn his head to the side and cough up a mouthful of blood onto the dirt before looking back up at him, trusting even as he lay beaten beneath him.
“I’m gonna get you out of here,” Dean said. “Look at me, Sammy. Look me in the eyes and tell me I’m lying.”
Sam eased his grip on the dagger, but remained on guard. His eyes traced down the forming bruises to Dean’s chest. His lips parted as his fingers reached out to the blood-smeared amulet.
Dean had never worn it here before. When Sam wrapped his fingers around it, Dean reached up, closing his hand over Sam’s and nodding.
Sam shook his head. “No...”
He looked at Dean before shifting his gaze to his own bloody knuckles. Shock washed over him with the full realization of who lay beneath him. The dagger hit the dirt forgotten.
“It’s okay, Sammy.”
“No...it’s not. You shouldn’t be here. You can’t...” Sam scrambled off his brother. He wrapped his arm around Dean, helping to haul him to his feet. “Dean, what did you do?”
Dean squeezed Sam’s shoulder. “Trust me?”
Sam searched Dean's moist eyes for an explaination. He didn't find one, but when it came down to it, he didn't need one either.
“Yes,” Sam whispered.
“Then you can thank me later.” Dean pulled his body tight against his. “Hold on. This might tickle.”
Sam didn’t have time to ask what was happening before Dean began a chant beneath his breath. Somehow, those whispered words of Latin were louder than Lucifer’s shouts of protest, which faded to the distance as Dean drew him in further until Sam couldn’t tell where one of them ended and the other began.
Dean didn’t have to wonder if it had worked, if Sam’s soul had been taken into his. He could feel it. Feel everything. He collapsed under the weight of the pain.
Every last burn and cut that Lucifer had forced into his brother’s flesh hit Dean all at once. The pain, fear and anger, both his and Sam’s, entwined to the point he couldn’t feel the difference.
Lucifer had used him against his brother. That fact mixed with the flood of emotions and made Dean want to lay waste to the angels, but Sam’s damn logical reasoning was locked up inside him, too. And Sam was right. Even if it were possible to gank them here, the worse fate was to them to eons of forced couples counseling.
By the time Dean got his bearings enough to stand, the wall had gone and Lucifer stood behind him. “Where is he?”
“Nowhere you’re gonna find him,” Dean said.
“You can’t hide him forever, not here.”
“Oh, we're not staying.” Dean backed away as he spoke. “And if you ever come near my brother again, I’m gonna be the one riding your ass back to hell.”
“You go right ahead and open that door,” Lucifer said.
“Sorry, Lucie. Should’ve paid the big bucks for the E ticket ride.”
Something inside him – Sam – shouted a warning. Dean spun to the side to see Michael approaching. He felt the building pressure, like the air being sucked out of a vacuum. It was time to get the hell out of Dodge.
He spoke the words of the ritual as quickly as he could manage without twisting them in knots. Sam only had to correct once. When Dean stepped back, the light was gone.
The impenetrable black again settled over him, but this time, there was nothing hollow or empty about it. There was only relief because he wasn’t alone.
“You hold on in there, Sammy. We’re almost out of here.”
There wasn’t any need for words. They barely had to speak when their souls were in separate bodies. Now, he knew Sam could hear every thought loud and clear, just like he could hear Sam’s.
His brother knew full well that tapping their ruby slippers wasn’t going to cut it. If they got topside and couldn’t dredge up a body for Sam, they were going to be permanently redefining what it was to share. That was if they got topside at all.
Dean felt out into the icy darkness. He didn’t remember how he’d gotten here and wasn’t sure how far up he wanted to risk wandering. None of the souls here could touch them, but if they moved up to Dean's old stomping grounds they'd land themselves in the middle of demon central.
“There’s no need to shout.”
Dean spun around and found himself standing back in the lounge. The hellhounds skittered to their feet, sniffing the air, but kept their distance. Crowley sat kicked back in his chair with papers covering the table in front of him.
“I was just reviewing some old contracts,” Crowley said. “Your deal? Talk about a toxic asset. And if you were ever considering taking up negotiating – don’t. You really should’ve held out for a better offer.”
Dean gritted his teeth. His mind wanted to run down the roads of what if, but Sam stopped him. Sam was right again. It didn’t matter. He couldn’t take it back, and that one, he wouldn’t take back even if he could.
“But still, color me impressed.” Crowley said as he raised his glass. “I must say, you look positively glowy. You and Sam? I always knew there was something—”
“You getting us out of here or not?” Dean asked.
When Dean came to, there wasn’t frigid cold or scorching heat or the rumbled breaths of hellhounds. There was no suffocating despair, no stench, no screams or unbearable silence.
The surface beneath him was soft and warm. He shifted and took in a breath of the familiar scents. He was back at Bobby’s, lying in the bed.
He’d never been big on the idea of sleeping in Bobby’s bed, but Bobby had laid him in it a few times before when he’d been too hurt or sick for Bobby to let him sleep on the couch. He didn’t remember how he’d gotten here this time.
“You in there, Dean?”
Bobby’s worried voice called him back to the moment. His eyes fluttered open. They felt like sandpaper. He squeezed them closed to try to moisten them before focusing his vision to see both Bobby and Castiel standing at his bedside.
Dean didn’t have time to question where Cas had come from or if he was even really awake. He remembered enough to know his brother should be with him, but he couldn’t feel him at all.
A strong hand clasped over his. “I’m right here, Dean.”
Dean jerked up from where he was laying to roll onto his side. The quick movement left him lightheaded. He stopped short of sitting up, propping his head up with elbow instead.
Sam sat beside him on the bed. He looked worse than Dean felt, but he was here. He was alive and whole and in his own body. Even he momentarily questioned if it was one of Lucifer’s tricks, but he squeezed the hand that was solid and warm.
“Sammy.” Dean glanced over his shoulder. “Cas you...?”
“I restored his body. Not that you ever should have considered...”
Dean could tell that Cas was revving up to rip him a new one. He didn’t give a rat’s ass if the angel wanted to spend the next decade chewing him out. He still couldn’t stop the smile that came to his lips or the smirk it turned into when Bobby’s glare shut Cas right up.
By the looks of it, Crowley wasn’t the only one who Bobby had told a thing or two. Dean wasn’t surprised. Bobby had managed to silence even Dad mid-tirade on an occasion or two.
Castiel gave a reluctant nod. “Though your actions were foolish and misguided, I’m glad they were successful.”
Dean sagged back onto the bed, the relief hitting him so hard it knocked away what little energy he had left. The easy smile on his lips couldn’t even be shattered by Sam’s primo bitch face.
“Castiel’s right, Dean,” Sam said. “You shouldn’t have risked it.”
“Bite me, Sam.” Dean folded his arms behind his head. “I’m just glad Cas got you out of me. That would’ve made sex seriously freaking awkward.”
Dean chuckled when Sam rolled his eyes. He caught Sam's weak smile and with it, everything was alright. They'd still lose the war, but they'd won the one battle truly worth fighting for.